Saturday, December 09, 2006

American diplomatic offensive on behalf of India in New Delhi

U.S. Under Secretary Nichoals Burns has been camping in New Delhi this week. He spoke to the media along with Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon on Thursday (Dec 7). Burns met a few of the journalists on Friday (Dec 8) morning, and there was a proper interaction with the media on Friday afternoon. The text of the U.S. Congress bill on the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement was made public, and Burns along with U.S. ambassador in New Delhi, David Mulford, was sharing with Indian journalists the happy moment, which the two U.S.
representatives described as "historic." The two had also revealed that they had met Indian Members of Parliament -- those belonging to the India-U.S. parliamentary forum, to explain the fine print as it were of the bill. It was clear that Burns was in Delhi to clear possible apprehensions and miscopnceptions about the text of the bill.

In response to a query, Burns said that he spoke to the Chinese leaders, and that it would be in the interest of Beijing to support the Indian case in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). And he went on to say that the U.S. will launch a diplomatic offensive on behalf of India in the NSG.

Burns emphasised on Friday afternoon that the U.S. Congress was respectful of India in its wording of the bill. He also revealed that while testifying to the Senate foreign relations committee, he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had told the members that they (the Bush Administration) will not be coming to the Senate with a similar agreement with any other country, and that India was the unique case. It was an indirect assurance that a similar agreement will not be signed with Pakistan.

Burns was also singing a new tune, as it were. He described the successful conclusion of the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in the form of the bill as a way of beinging India into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. He said that while India was not a member of the NPT regime, it still adhered to the principles of non-proliferation, while North Korea, which was a signatory to the NPT, violated the treaty obligations. So, it made more sense to have a responsible India on board, he said. It is to be noted that India has not signed the NPT as being a discriminatory treaty, and it is unlikely that India will now sign the NPT. But the Americans are making a desperate attempt to make the NPT regime look a legitimate one with the 'unofficial' entry of India.

Burns also told journalists that he had a frank discussion with Defence Minister A.K.Antony, and said that the U.S. will share military know-how with India, including transfer of technology. The nuclear deal will be bringing the two countries closer, and they will be cooperating with each other in other strategic areas like the armed forces. So, many of the American companies will be coming to India to make arms deals.

Mulford said that they (he and Burns) had told the MPs during the meeting about the American legislative process, and how certain issues have been moved from one category to another. It was an attempt once again to show that what might appear to question India's rights is not really so, and that it is part of the business transaction between the U.S. Congress and the governemtn or the executive.

The American diplomats, it seems, did not want to leave any room for speculation. They made sure that they were around to clarify all issues. It was a diplomatic sales pitch that should flatter India. But it also shows that Americans know how to sell their policies and perspectives very well. They want to prove to the hilt that India is important to the U.S. And they are not going to speak, like good salesmen and diplomats, about all the years when the U.S. had thought that India was not important enough.

India, perhaps, would have remained unimportant, if it had continued with its old economic policies. The economic liberalisation is what has changed the perception. And, of course, the Indian 'soft power' in the IT sector and in the sciences had helped in altering the American view.

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